Niu Sila

Glen Eden Playhouse, Auckland

10/05/2008 - 24/05/2008

Production Details

Niu Sila – by the writers of Bro Town – is in the school syllabus, and very popular with students.

This is a professional production staged at the Glen Eden Playhouse Theatre.

School matinee tickets are just $8 each.

You can book for the following shows at this price:

Monday 12 May 2008 10.00AM  OR  12.30PM
Tuesday 13 May 2008 10.00AM OR 12.30PM
Saturday 17 May 2008 2PM
Monday 19 May 2008 10.00AM OR 12.30PM
Tuesday 20 May 2008 10.00AM OR 12.30PM

All shows run 90 minutes, followed by an optional forum.

It is possible to add shows in the early evenings of Monday or Tuesday, or other day shows if the demand is there.

To book, or any queries, please contact Lynn Cottingham on 09 818 6645. Or email  

Hilarious culture collision

Review by Paul Simei-Barton 16th May 2008

Dave Armstrong and Oscar Kightley’s wickedly funny take on Samoan-Palagi relations is well suited to the ethnic pot-pourri of West Auckland.

There can be few areas of the country where inter-cultural mixing is more common and the Glen Eden Playhouse audience responds with hoots of recognition whenever a local reference point is thrown in. [More]


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Irrepressible humour

Review by Nik Smythe 11th May 2008

Niu Sila is a simple, human tale of two boys from divergent cultures growing up best friends, with all the triumphs and troubles that go along with it.  This Peach Theatre Company production marks the first season not performed by the original cast. 

The story’s narrator is Peter Burton, played straight white-bread no-style style by Ashley Hawkes.  At the age of five Peter befriends Samoan new kid in town Ioane Tafioka, portrayed with natural ease by Fasitua Amosa.  Before long the two friends and their families are enjoying their acquaintance. 

Peter’s parents, though not without their lovable flaws, are pretty switched on socially.  It’s clear how much conscious awareness is required in a middle class palagi culture to achieve anything near the level of community spirit that comes so naturally in abundance to the working class Tafiokas.

The relationship between the boys and their families faces a number of challenges over the ten odd years that most of the play takes place within.  It seems Ioane, despite his irascible charm and the support of the Burtons, has the cards stacked against him in his quest to make something of his life.

The main dramatic issue surrounding their eventual breakdown is about the conflicting cultures regarding corporal punishment.  When Ioane gets in big trouble, he’s up for a beating, and none of the Burtons with all their liberal anti-smacking soapbox ideals can bring themselves to interfere. 

The script by Dave Armstrong and Oscar Kightley is snappy, hilarious and wholly satisfying.  More than a few Bro-Townesque quips permeate the dialogue, but not so much as to detract from the necessary humanity of the piece. 

Director Jesse Peach has chosen an excellent cast to deliver a solid theatrical work with grace and simplicity.  Some dramatic moments are lower on visceral punch than you might expect from Pacifican theatre.  However, we care enough about the folks we’re watching to be engaged throughout, and we are properly moved where it counts. 

The characterisation in the duo’s numerous and variant supporting roles is strong, but the real key to Niu Sila is in the irrepressible humour.  A lot of ironic juxtapositions are raised, and many stereotypes are confirmed and celebrated along the way.  The ultimate resolution seems a tad idealistic.  The actual end, set back on Ioane’s island in Samoa, is downright heroic, in a quietly tragic way. 

Originally set in Wellington the geographical references have been transposed to local places in the West, to an appreciative local crowd.  It brings the audience in tighter to the characters. More is invested in the outcome of their journey when we’re made to feel like it’s taken place in our own community.*  There was one passing reference to the Wahine disaster storm which seemed out of time and place; it must have been a joke but not too clear.

Lynn Cottingham and Debbie Howard take the wardrobe credit for Hawkes’ pastel yellow polo shirt and non matching pastel green shorts, and Amosa’s beige shorts and faded flower shirt, which exemplify the main characters well. 

The set design of Steve Peach is distinctly Pacifican.  In fact the majority of the play is performed with no set or props, but the upstage small cluster of rocks before the oceanic cyclorama that we saw softly lit up whilst being seated is incorporated at the end for a visually appealing post-climactic epilogue.

*Green Bay High School, where I myself went, features as the one the boys attend when starting third form (an unfortunate choice for sports-savant Ioane given the school’s fundamental lack of sports focus).  I am intrigued with Peter’s allegation that, whilst streaming didn’t technically exist at Green Bay, they had an identical process called ‘banding’ and that academic and racial prejudice were an institutional feature of the school.  Peter’s class of liberal palagis go to museums and plays, Ioane’s class of Pacifican reprobates go to detentions.  I wonder how much dramatic license is taken to illustrate this picture, or if it’s more relevant to the corresponding Wellington school of the original script than it is to Green Bay since I don’t recall such separatism prevailing while I was there. 


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